To read previous journal entries, please go to: Journal
1 archive 2/25-3/24/00, Journal
2 archive 3/25-4/24/00, Journal
3 archive 4/25-5/24/00, Journal
4 archive 5/25-6/24/00, Journal
5 archive 6/25-7/24/00, Journal
6 archive 7/25-8/24/00, Journal7
archive 8/25-9/24/00, Journal
8 archive 9/25-10/24/00, Journal
9 archive 10/25-11/24/00, Journal
10 archive 11/25-12/24/00, Journal
11 archive 12/25/00-1/24/01, Journal
12 archive 1/25-2/24/01, Journal
13 archive 2/25-3/24/01, Journal
14 archive 3/25-4/24/01, Journal
15 archive 4/25-5/24/01, Journal
16 archive 5/25-6/24/01, Journal
17 archive 6/25-7/24/01, Journal
18 archive 7/25-8/24/01, Journal
19 archive 8/25-9/24/01, Journal
20 archive 9/25-10/24/01, Journal
21 archive 10/25-11/24/01, Journal
22 archive 11/25-12/24/01, Journal
23 archive 12/25/01-1/24/02, Journal
24 archive 1/25-2/24/02, Journal
25 archive 2/25-3/24/02, Journal
26 archive 3/25-4/24/02, Journal
27 archive 4/25-5/24/02, Journal
28 archive 5/25-6/24/02, Journal
29 archive 6/25-7/24/02, Journal
30 archive 7/25-8/24/02, Journal
31 archive 8/25-9/24/02,Journal
32 archive 9/25-10/24/02, Journal
33 archive 10/25-11/24/02, Journal
34 archive 11/25-12/24/02, Journal
35 archive 12/25/02-1/24/03, Journal
36 archive 1/25-2/24/03, Journal
37 archive 2/25-3/25/03, Journal
38 archive 3/26-4/24/03, Journal
39 archive 4/25-5/24/03, Journal
40 archive 5/25-6-24/03, Journal
41 archive 6/25-7/24/03, Journal
42 archive 7/25-8/24/03, Journal
43 archive 8/25-9/24/03, Journal
44 archive 9/25-10/24/03, Journal
45 archive 10/25-11/24/03, Journal
46 archive 11/25-12/24/03, Journal
47 archive 12/25/03-1/24/04, Journal
48 archive 1/25-2/24/04, Journal
49 archive 2/25-3/24/04, Journal
50 archive 3/25-4/24/04, Journal
51 archive 4/25-5/24/04, Journal
52 archive 5/25-6/24/04, Journal
53 archive 6/25-7/24/04, Journal
54 archive 7/25-8/24/04, Journal
55 archive 8/25-9/24/04, Journal
56 archive 9/25-10/24/04, Journal
57 archive 10/25-11/24/04, Journal
58 archive 11/25-12/24/04, Journal
59 archive 12/25/04-1/24/05, Journal
60 archive 1/25-2/24/05, Journal 61 archive 2/25-3/24/05, Journal 62 archive 3/25-4/24/05, Journal 63 archive 4/25-5/24/05, Journal 64 archive 5/25-6/24/05, Journal 65 archive 6/25-7/24/05, Journal 66 archive 7/25-8/24/05, Journal 67 archive 8/25-9/24/05, Journal 68 archive 9/25-10/24/05, Journal 69 archive 10/25-11/24/05, Journal 70 archive 11/25-12/24/05, Journal 71 archive 12/25/05-1/24/06, Journal 72 archive 1/25-2/24/06, Journal 73 archive 2/25-3/24/06, Journal 74 archive 3/25-4/24/06, Journal 75 archive 4/25-5/24/06, Journal 76 archive 5/25-6/24/06
To read my current journal, please go to: windchime walker's journal
*Now that I have a digital camera, journal entries may be linked to related photos. Download time should be no more than 5 seconds. The easiest way to navigate going back and forth between photo links and journal text is to click on your "back" button at the left of your tool bar.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2001
Today my women's group met up in the woods outside of Sebastapol, CA. One of our number, H.C., lives with her partner, R.D., in a magical setting on three acres of land among the redwoods with a creek cascading through their property. The house is spacious, filled with light from uncurtained windows and decorated in a zen-like way. It has marvelous energy, reflective of this loving couple who recently returned from a trip to Tibet.
On the hour-long drive north of San Francisco, velvet green pastures and hills demonstrated the benefits of our recent rains. Once at H.'s, we greeted her and R., then sent him off as H. wanted to protect our women's-only sense of space. We gathered in the kitchen, poured ourselves cups of tea, then moved to the living room where we visited until it was time for lunch.
I have a friend who teases me about how often I write about food in my journal, but I must describe the homemade feast H. set before us. We started with big bowls of fresh vegetable soup served with assorted breads, then went on to a leafy green salad, artichoke squares (similar to a quiche), vegetarian grape leaves and potato salad with feta cheese. Love was in every bite. Dessert was served in the living room--oatmeal/raisin, chocolate chip and molasses cookies.
After lunch, we regathered in the living room for our time of ritual/creative expression. In deference to H.'s month-long silent retreat starting next Saturday, she asked that we dance today, something she doubts she'll be doing much of while on retreat. With our encouragement she put Indian spiritual music on the CD player and the dancing began. We each went where we wanted--both inside and outside on the deck--moved as we felt drawn to move, and added chanting, bells and drums whenever we felt like it.
I started in the living room but soon moved out onto the deck. Once there I was touched to see three mule deer within sight in the woods. The deer is my totem animal and I'm always nourished by their presence. H. said it was unusual for them to come close to the house at this time of day. It felt like a special gift. I spent precious time sitting by myself soaking up the beauty of trees, sky and deer.
After almost an hour, we sat down together again in the living room. Now it was time for what we call "check in", that is sharing what's going on in our lives. We've been together long enough to develop the trust that allows us to speak in deeply honest ways.
I spoke of my recent painful discovery about how terribly children of color were treated in my hometown school system. Tears accompanied my words. My friends respected the seriousness of my sharing, and held it with me in silence. Then B.D., who had also been raised in the south, told of the racist attitudes and actions she'd grown up with and how her response to them was to leave home early and march for civil rights in the '60s.
We took turns going around the circle, with each woman using as much time as she needed to say whatever she wanted to say. To complete the check-in, we telephoned our missing sister, D.W., who was sick at home. At the end, H. brought her kitty cat, Clovey, into the room but he was too shy to stay.
I returned home by 8 PM
feeling nurtured and enlivened by this wonderful group of women
and the joy of being in such a place of beauty. What a perfect
way to celebrate the one-year anniversary of this journal!
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2001
"It is our choices,
Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
Dumbledore speaking in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p. 333.
As I read this sentence tonight, it stood out as though ablaze in lights. Since today's last visitor left this afternoon at 4 PM, I've been trying to catch hold of what was going on inside me. There had obviously been some profound shift--a mix of healing and empowerment--but what it meant was still fuzzy until I read Dumbledore's words to Harry Potter after Harry had again vanquished Lord Voldemort.
My inborn abilities are no longer the measure of who I am; my choices have outstripped them in importance.
I entertained two sets of visitors today--V.D.J. and S.M., dear friends from Oakland, and J.S., a high school classmate from 41 years ago. All three of these friends came bearing gifts.
V.D.J. and S.M. brought our shared herstory of a friendship that has been a sturdy thread woven through the fabric of my five winters in San Francisco. With V.D.J. and me, there is the bond of sharing the moment when my SF life was born. During a breakfast together in Oakland back in February 1995, she asked the question that set my life on this new course, "And you, Patricia, what is your dream?" My spontaneous response--"To live part of the year in San Francisco and the rest of the year at home in Detroit"--surprised me more than anyone. Friends are often the ones who ask the right question at the right time.
Today we three did what we always do--reverently listened as each woman checked in. Our check-ins can go on for hours. We share as deeply and honestly as we can. The listeners might then ask questions or hold up a mirror reflecting back what they have heard. As V. and S. have been partners for almost 7 years, they know one another's stories well. Even so, new insights often illuminate our gatherings. I always leave their company feeling more mySelf than I was when we sat down.
What was different about today was that V. and S.'s visit overlapped one by J.S., an old high school friend from out of town. J.S. and I had not really talked in 41 years, beyond sharing a few words at a reunion or two. But L.O'H., with whom I visited last week, had given J.S. my phone number when he heard J. would be coming to SF on business. I had no idea how it would be to spend time with this wealthy NYC investment banker whom I remembered as one of the most intelligent, straight-speaking, dry-witted members of our 1960 graduating class.
First of all, I enjoyed watching my friends relate. It's rare that one's present has an opportunity to meet one's past, which was how it seemed to me as I watched the conversation take interesting twists and turns. With grand relational timing, V. and S. seemed to know when to go off and enjoy their vacation day together in the city, leaving J.S. and me to reacquaint ourselves after four decades.
As a teenager, I'd been in awe of J.'s brain and nervous around his sometimes-biting tongue. He seemed not only to see through pretense but to confront it openly. And at the time I was full of my share of pretense, mainly because I did not consider my true self--whoever that might have been--worth very much. I remember J.'s inscription in my senior yearbook was the quote about being able to fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. I felt his inscription somehow stripped the mask from my then-pimply face. Painful as it was, those words made me determined to become the authentic person I knew must be under there somewhere, a task that took over three decades to accomplish. We never know how our words affect other people. When I told J. this story at an earlier reunion, he didn't remember any of it.
Today we sat out in the sunny garden with our conversation flowing like a waterfall. We even forgot to go eat lunch, something he'd mentioned wanting to do when we'd talked on the phone last week. And though our lives have certainly taken different paths, there were lots of places where we met and understood one another. I found a man, still intelligent as hell, but with such an open heart that he has taken fatherhood and friendship to a high level. He reflected back to me that he found me wonderfully open, alive and our conversation, thought-provoking. I hope I healed his lingering teenage wounds as effectively as he did mine. I realize I'd felt like a "dumb girl" around him in high school, and now I knew myself as an intelligent woman--totally herself--who had made good life choices.
My gratitude to V.D.J.
and S.M., and to J.S. for giving me back pieces of myself I didn't
know I'd lost...or maybe just forgotten.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2001
Today I took the time off that I needed after a string of intensely relational days. D.W. and I had made a date to go to an early matinee movie downtown, but when she called last night, I knew that was not going to work for me. It would have meant waking to an alarm clock for the fifth morning out of the last six. No, I just couldn't do it. So we postponed our date until Thursday. Good thing, because my body, allowed to go by its own clock, stayed in bed until 12:15 PM! I knew I was tired.
When I opened the french door and walked outside, I encountered a glorious spring day, warm and sunny. I sat down in my comfortable lawn chair beside the flowering bushes and soaked up the sun for a couple of delicious hours. During that time I called E.D. and my mother.
I was surprised that Mom realized today was her wedding anniversary. Of course she said it was her 100th instead of her 64th, but who's counting. The interesting thing was her assertion that she and her husband were still alive. I said, "Mom, Daddy's been dead a long time now." There was silence. Then she said, "I don't understand what you mean." I decided not to push it but to simply listen. She went on to say, "He doesn't visit me anymore though." "Are you OK with that?" "Oh, it's all right. I know he just doesn't want to see me here in this rest home." I guess we each construct the story we can best live with. Dad died in 1987 after nine years of Alzheimer's.
About 2:30 PM, I pulled La Lucha out of her shed/garage and went scooting out into the world. First to drop off a load of wash at Mr. W.'s corner laundry, and then up 24th Street into Noe Valley. Everyone was out on the streets--walking, jogging, pushing strollers, biking, sitting at cafe tables or on sidewalk benches. After taking care of a few errands--having my "tail" rebraided at the hair salon and buying a few items at the organic grocery--I went to Manhattan Bagels to pick up a late lunch. I then parked La Lucha outside and enjoyed half an egg salad bagel and orange juice. I gave the other half to J., a woman I know who was selling the homeless newspaper, Street Sheet, nearby.
After awhile a smiling man sat down on the bench beside me and we began to talk. He proudly showed me his "finds" of the day--a green glass lamp that was among someone's garbage, a set of six rapidograph pens that a sidewalk vendor had sold him for $2, and a book about home recording studios and one about alternative medicine from the same vendor. He was gleeful with what he called the synchronicity of it all.
Have you ever happened upon a raconteur whose life stories are more engaging than most movies or books? Well, that describes my new friend, G.L. Whether talking about a documentary he filmed at the festival, Las Fallas, in Valencia, Spain, or his years living in Rome, or the people he worked with as an actor and a musician in New York, or his part in the first Carnival street fair in the Mission, this man definitely keeps his listener's interest. My neighborhood friend, J., stopped by and joined our conversation for awhile. It turned out that he and G. know many of the same people in San Francisco's community of performers. I intend to invite G.L. to my next potluck brunch on April 1. My friends will adore him.
It was still too pretty to go in, even though the sun was close to ducking down over Twin Peaks by the time we finished talking. I scooted down 24th to the Mission Library and went inside. With La Lucha I sure am appreciative of the construction that closed the library for over two years, but now makes it accessible, with elevators and everything. I found a book on writing by Tillie Olsen, called Silences. It examines the lives of writers throughout the last couple of centuries and how life or cultural restrictions got in the way of their creative output. This library is always full of patrons. A good sign.
When I left the library, it was dark but the air was still mild. I decided to scoot down to 16th and Valencia for dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant. As always, the samosas and chana masala were delicious, and the owner, most welcoming.
A truly restorative day.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2001
Such a hard day.
It didn't start out that way. Another warm sunny day. I sat out in the garden this morning and looked up to see yet another perspective on the flowers and trees around me. But perhaps something in me knew this would not simply be another day of light because I took a picture of my shadow cast on the path. Last time I took such a picture was back in 1989 when I was finding a lot of the shadow within myself and the world, shadow realities I had put off seeing. Maybe what happened today was the same--shadow images of a reality I'd preferred to see as totally light.
Simply Supper. Everything going along as usual. If anything, it was quieter and less crowded than we'd expected it to be on this last day of the month, the day before folks get their assistance checks. Actually quite a mellow mood. Everyone talking about Seattle's earthquake, saying maybe they should go up there now as there should be a lot of work.
Suddenly there was shouting at a table in the corner. Someone was yelling, "Get E.!", E. being the project director. She came running in from the hall and threw herself full throddle at these two guys who were trading punches. We heard a crash as a long table was upended. Food and drink everyplace. But mainly there was a big pile of people on the floor, E. included. It was hard to tell if the whole place was catching fire with fights or if it was just that so many people were trying to break up the original fight. I could see one of them was the guy I always think of as the Gentle Giant. Arms were still flailing, punches hitting their mark and yells echoing around the room. But everyone who was not involved just sat quietly and watched the action in the corner of room. Some simply continued eating.
The woman pastor of MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) came running in with her assistant not far behind. Things began to quiet down. The Gentle Giant, who it turns out was the one throwing punches and upending the table, was holding his bleeding nose. The other fellow whose words had precipitated the violence left the room. Police came in and the pastor escorted the Not-So-Gentle Giant into her office, as she'd promised him she would do. E. came out of it holding her hand but assuring us she was OK. "Hey, this is nothing. I used to work in a woman's prison!"
I don't know if they pressed charges, but the Giant will be "86ed", or barred from the building forever. It's too bad as he has been a regular for years at many of the programs put on by the church. He's always been pretty unstable mentally but never seemed a threat until today. I don't know if the verbal provoker will be punished, but somehow I doubt it. It's hard to get a clear story about what happened--something about a salt shaker. The fellow whose words set the Giant off is the same guy I saw verbally abusing his wife on the streets a few weeks ago. Not a nice man.
Everyone was shaken by this unexpected outbreak of violence. Even the old timers have never seen anything like it at Simply Supper. We have a reputation for being a gentle-spirited place. I noticed people who left afterwards stopped to say something kind to me, as though to comfort me. Guess I must have looked a little ragged by then.
On our way home, I asked
S.W. if he had time to drive me over to the ocean. I really felt
the need for its soothing sounds and smells. What a good choice.
We arrived just as the sun was being engulfed by a bank of clouds.
There were people standing around a bonfire. Surfers in the waves
walking out to join them. A man with a huge
kite that dragged him all over the sand and occasionally lifted
him off his feet. I just
stood and took it all in. After a half hour I felt grounded
and solid again. Thank you, grandmother ocean. And gratitude to
S.W. for taking me to the place where I needed to be.
THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2001
If you want an escapist movie definitely do not go to see "The House of Mirth". I guess I hadn't read the reviews thoroughly enough because I thought I might actually see some evidence of mirth. Hardly! This is not to say it isn't an excellent film: it is. Visually stunning with a lovely score and superb acting, "The House of Mirth" is an adaptation of Edith Wharton's rather caustic novel of life in high society in 1905 New York. What a sad story.
I did not want to see a sad story today; I wanted to be entertained. Yesterday's real life had been sad enough. Everytime I think of the Not-So-Gentle Giant being cut off from Simply Supper and all the activities at MCC, it makes me sad. I'm not sure he'll even remember why he's being turned away. We were his community.
Anyway, I didn't need to sit in a movie theater for two and a half hours to get in touch with feelings of sadness.
I so appreciated the emails I received today from reader/friends all over the world regarding yesterday's journal entry. Such understanding responses! It really helps to feel the warmth of a community of support, virtual as well as physical. Friends are friends whether we communicate person-to-person or email-to-email. In some ways I feel the folks who read my journal--a good number of whom I do know in person--have seen and heard my inner stirrings in ways that merely physical friends and family members have not. I'm grateful that my husband E.D. is a faithful reader, even though I know he prefers entries that are more photo-full.
So, for E.D., I'll add three pictures I took today.
I was a half hour early for my 11 AM date to meet D.W. at the 24th/Mission BART station, so I went on a short scoot-tour. One of the images I love in that neighborhood is lush green Bernal Heights rising at the southern end of most north/south streets. I took this picture on South Van Ness between 24th and 25th. On the same block was a huge Victorian house with a turret--such an image of bygone days.
South Van Ness must have been an elegant street after the 1906 earthquake. Many wealthy residents moved to the Mission because its homes were built on bedrock. At that time, the fires that consumed the city north of Market stopped at 20th Street, so the Mission was spared. But now, even with the massive gentrification of San Francisco, South Van Ness is still what I'd call a "working" street. Real life rather than the theme park atmosphere one is apt to find in some other parts of the city.
Too bad so many visitors to San Francisco miss its true character by sticking to tourist areas. If you ever come to this city be sure to venture out into the neighborhoods. At places like Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz, all you're going to see are other folks from out of town. Come on down to the Mission and explore the murals, eat authentic Latin American food, just hang out. It's a great neighborhood!
To get back to my promise of photos for E.D., my third of the day was of these puffy pigeons roosting on a steel sculpture inside the Embarcadero complex where we went to the movie. Believe me, they were the only relaxed creatures we saw; the financial district is a hurry-scurry place. After a couple hours downtown, I'm always happy to return to my garden. Even when it's raining, as it started to do on my way home from the BART station this afternoon.
Chorus rehearsal tonight
completed what felt like a full day.
FRIDAY, MARCH 2, 2001
My mantra for the day is "Don't give up!"
I spent much of today searching every corner of this small cottage trying to find my misplaced concert ticket. I had planned to see the jazz vocalist, Patricia Barber, tonight at Herbst Auditorium downtown. She and Andy Bey were scheduled to perform as part of the San Francisco Jazz Spring Season. When it got to be 6 PM and still no ticket, I considered giving up and staying home. But I decided to call and see if the telephone ticket service I'd used might have some arrangements for handling lost tickets. They did, I went, and am so grateful that I did. It was one of the most exceptional jazz concerts I've ever experienced.
First of all, Patricia Barber was nothing like what I'd expected. Her CDs are filled with lovely renditions of old stand-bys. I knew she was young, but figured she was a vocalist in the Ella Fitzgerald/Sarah Vaughan tradition. I've always admired her clarity of tone, melodic excellence and unerring pitch, so I was looking forward to hearing her in person. The other act--the Andy Bey trio--was unfamiliar to me.
Well, I soon discovered that Patricia Barber is not simply a vocalist, but an accomplished pianist as well. Her set was totally original, pushing every edge musically, and breathtaking in its range of styles. Her trio--composed of herself on piano and vocals, a bass player and percussionist--made music that had the audience literally screaming in appreciation...and this was a pretty refined crowd. I sat next to C., who had come down from Chico for this concert, and we spent the intermission raving about what we'd just heard. However, he was here primarily to hear Andy Bey. C. has his own weekly jazz show on a community radio station in Chico, and has been in awe of Bey since he (C.) was a child. And now I can see why.
Though Andy Bey was anything but experimental, he mezmerized us with his four-octave voice that melts your heart like hot molasses poured from a spoon. No one screamed; rather we all purred, especially when he finished with "Someone To Watch Over Me".
Even with the ongoing ticket hunt, it was a relaxing day. I settled down in my usual chair and ate lunch in the garden. Instead of reading, I looked closely at my surroundings and noted subtle seasonal changes. The calla lily plant put me in mind of a triple goddess--Maiden/Mother/Crone--with its three blossoms in different stages of maturity. The raised strawberry bed is showing signs of blooms appearing, in addition to tulip leaves pushing up in their race toward spring. Purple iris and golden day lilies have started blooming in front of the rosemary plant. And I felt privileged to see a shimmering green hummingbird with what looked like white cotton stuck to its beak. It was dipping into the woolly-seeded plant near the fence. It was the third time this week that I've seen a hummingbird in the garden. My favorite guest.
So now it is almost 1:30
AM and I must go to bed. What a sweet day it's been.
SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2001
This was another of those magical, synchronistic days.
I was on my way to the Castro with an agenda in mind (which is unusual for me): to buy a few more gifts for E.D.'s 71st birthday next Friday, then take everything to the post office and send it off by priority mail. I'd allowed 2? hours before I was to be at the Global Women's Strike committee meeting a half mile from the Castro. I don't like to be rushed, so this felt like a nice leisurely schedule.
On the way down 22nd Street, I stopped briefly to take a photo of these typical SF front steps surrounded by lushly flowering plants. Then when I got to the Women's Building on 18th between Valencia and Guerrero, I again stopped, this time to take another picture of the murals. As I reached into my purse for my camera, a vibrant woman with leaflets in her hand walked up and said, "Would you be interested in an International Women's Day event?" We traded information on the events we're both working on--hers is sponsored by the Bay Area Radical Women. We introduced ourselves and when I heard her say, "I'm Nellie Wong", I said, "Nellie Wong, the poet?"
Well, that started an energetic free-flowing conversation about everything from Smith College where she's going to give a reading next week and where I went to graduate school, to our both having wanted to have children but never having gotten pregnant, to our shared commitment to activism, to our having discovered and been bitten by the bug of pantoum poetry. She finally said, "Would you like to get together for lunch or something when I return from Northampton? I think we have a lot to talk about!"
Nellie Wong first came into my life in November 1997 when I found and bought two books of her poetry, Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park and a chapbook titled "Stolen Moments". They had been on a table highlighting Bay Area poets at the annual San Francisco Publishers Convention. I'd been part of a weeklong poetry workshop with Thomas Lux the summer before and was trying to find examples of good poetry wherever I could. Nellie Wong's seemingly simple, straight-forward, sometimes searing way of creating poetry out of her life experience as a bridge between two cultures and two generations touched me deeply. Once home, I poured over her poems, feeling a longing to meet this writer who could distill such complexities into so few words. So here she was finding me two and a half years later.
But Nellie was not to be my only magical encounter. Less than a block down 18th Street, there was a man surrounded by vividly-colored paintings with symbolic themes evocative of First Nation and Mexican art. His name is Sean Nash and his heritage is Choctaw. Sean teaches, paints and offers his art on a pay-what-you-can basis. "I believe that once I've painted it, it's no longer mine. My responsibility then becomes finding the person for whom I painted it. It's a lot easier to do that out here on the sidewalk than in a gallery." The one he painted for me is of a white tree with four leafy arms and blood-red roots. The tree is set against a cerelian blue sky and crowned by a full white sun. It is painted in acrylic on a small oval canvas.
By now, I had just enough time to go to Planetweavers where S. and R. were working the desk. I picked up a few more birthday presents for E.D. and took them to the post office to be mailed. Then I couldn't just walk by these girl scouts selling cookies--I remember too well having to sell candy as a Camp Fire Girl in the '40s. I was only five minutes late to my 1 PM meeting.
We're in the last stages of planning the San Francisco events for the Global Women's Strike Day to be held this Thursday, March 8 (International Women's Day). In addition to our core group, we were pleased that the president of San Francisco NOW joined us. Things are moving forward for our press conference/vigil at noon at City Hall, and for the 6-10 PM protest celebration at a downtown church.
Last year, 65 countries worldwide participated in the Global Women's Strike Day; this year it is even larger. Exciting news today was from Spain where the most significant labor union--composed of both men and women--is calling for a nationwide strike on March 8 to show solidarity with women's demands for pay equity and wages for unpaid work in the home. Each country's events are unique but interconnected with the others. It is this ever-expanding web that offers the greatest hope for change.
In San Francisco, we will have Speak Outs both at noon and in the evening, times when women tell of their lives and their work for justice. Among the women who have agreed to speak are welfare mothers, homeless women, a lawyer/mother, lesbian women, a nurse, Asian-American women, an advocate for prostitutes, an African-American woman who's working on a documentary about racial disenfranchishment during Election 2000, members of the Green Party who will speak about California's energy crisis and the proposed bailout of PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric), and I'll be speaking about the United States's decade-long abusive behavior--both bombings and sanctions--toward Iraq and its profound effects on women and children. During the noon event, we'll also sing, chant, march and hand out leaflets. Poets, musicians and dancers will perform that night, and there'll be food and dancing for everyone.
It's still very much a work in progress, so it'll be fun to see how it all unfolds. But whatever happens on Thursday, I've certainly enjoyed getting to know this community of activist women. It feels like a piece of my San Francisco experience that was missing until now.
After the meeting I stopped for a slice of Indian pizza at Zante. The owner made me a special lassi (yoghurt) drink, the ingredients of which he smilingly refused to reveal. I also ordered samosas to go. My bill was $7 which was less than it should have been. I'm afraid I'm getting awfully spoiled.
Before going home, I stopped at my corner deli/organic grocery to stock up on Odwalla juice and to buy the Sunday paper. As I scooted into my shed/garage, drops of rain began to splatter the sidewalk. But I made it inside before the deluge...partly because of my neighbor L.'s brother's help lugging my bags into the kitchen.
This was a day of perfect
SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 2001
Today has been, as Ed Sullivan used to say, a really big show! So big that I'm going to tell you all about it tomorrow. I just got home after leaving here this morning at 7:30 AM. It is now 9 PM.
In a nutshell, the day started out at Colma Cemetery in a drenching cold gusty rainstorm. My Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco was there to sing at the Widow Norton's annual visit to the grave of her "husband", The Emperor Norton. I'll explain what that means tomorrow. Next my friend P.McD. dropped me off at P.O. and S.W.'s condominium where we threw everything I was wearing, including my raincoat, into the drier while I sat bundled in a terrycloth robe in front of a cozy fire with a hot cup of tea. At 2 PM we three went to the ballet. Then it was back to S. and P.'s for a delicious homecooked dinner created by P. Now I'm back in my cottage and getting ready to turn in.
I'll leave you with two images from the day: first, two beautiful "women" at the Widow Norton's event; and secondly, P.O., S.W. with their feline companions, Kushka and Falacca.
MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2001
I've just had a wonderful time exploring the web to find background information on the Widow Norton, the star of yesterday's Widow Norton's Annual Trip to the Cemetery. I learned things I'd never known about her even though I've sung at this event with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco for four years now. The following is an excerpt from a longer biographical essay of Her Most Imperial Majesty Empress Jose 1, the Widow Norton:
Facing on-going police pressures, the owner of The Black Cat, a strayt man who had long kept the bar open against police harassment, closed the bar the day after Halloween in 1963. Within a week, police had closed five other gay bars. In 1963 San Francisco boasted thirty primarily gay and lesbian establishments. By 1964 only eighteen remained.
Sarria and the various gay bar owners, however, did not simply give up hope. In early 1965 the owners united in forming the Tavern Guild and put on San Francisco's first large, public drag ball with Sarria heading it up. Over 500 lesbians and gay men bravely crossed police lines and braved flood lights and the flashing lights of police photographers to attend this ball. During it, Sarria was named the Queen of the Ball.
Soon Sarria considered that why be a queen when he could be an empress? So, he proclaimed himself the Empress of San Francisco. To further enhance this title, Sarria drew upon the legend of the Emperor Norton, the fabulously eccentric 19th century San Franciscan miner and rice baron who gained and lost at least one fortune. During his lifetime, the Emperor Norton dressed finely and proclaimed himself the Emperor of the United States and Canada, Protector of Mexico. Heir in spirit if not law to this extraordinary man, Sarria named himself the Widow Norton and began annual pilgrimages to Norton's grave in nearby Colma where he and accompanying drag queens would pay their respects with flowers to Sarria's departed "spouse."
The Tavern Guild continued to draw the city's gay community together and began to regularly hold events including the annual drag ball. Eventually this ball marked the annual election of a city-wide Empress who succeeded Empress Jose I and subsequent Empresses. Evolving out of the Tavern Guild, Jose developed the bylaws and functions of the Imperial Court of San Francisco, a group that sought through drag shows and other functions to raise money for at first primarily gay charities. Eventually the position of Emperor and the subsequent male and female lines of assorted princesses, dukes, and countesses were established to run and organize the charitable organization: the older, more prestigious female line for drag queens (and eventually women in traditional female garb) and the male line for men in stereotypical male garb (and eventually women doing "male drag.")
By the early 1970s, the Court system established by Sarria had been franchised to first Vancouver, Canada, and then Portland. Over the next thirty years individual Courts answering to the Widow Norton have spread to over sixty areas (some based in cities while others cover whole states or provinces) in the United States and Canada.
Although under Sarria's guidance the Courts have avoided by ruling any partisan politics, they have funneled considerable funds into community charities. This work has ranged considerably. The Imperial Court of Toronto recently raised funds to buy body bags and a burial ground for a more dignified closure to the lives of poor people who died of HIV/AIDS in Tiajuana, Mexico. Previous to the Court's help, these people's bodies were often tossed into trash heaps. Similarly in the mid-1980s when no local charity would invest in prevention and care programs related to HIV/AIDS, the Royal Sovereign Imperial Court of All Kentucky raised thousands of dollars to establish the Louisville-based Community Health Trust. In 1996 alone, the Cincinnati court donated to local charities over $10,000 raised from Court events. Varying of course by the size of the community and its chapter court, the Courts annually donate thousands of dollars towards helping their neighbors and especially gay communities.
With courts now established from Alaska to San Diego in the west and Toronto to Kentucky in the east, Sarria's empire has become one of the gay communities little secrets. As a strong grassroots organization interlinked by monarchs attending the annual coronation balls of other courts, central direction from Sarria and his International Imperial Council, and now even the Internet, the Court system may well be the strongest if not the only gay organization with as widespread a local base.
Jose Sarria today remains as busy as ever attending his children courts' coronation balls throughout the year. Here at these balls, he is not only the Widow Norton, he is "Mama," the title he asks all within the Court to address him by. He also recently made his major motion picture debut via a cameo piece in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Having also been featured in the book, The Mayor of Castro Street, Sarria's biography (as dictated to author Michael Gorman) premieres in the Spring of 1998 titled The Empress Is a Man by Haworth Press. Sarria still lives in his beloved San Francisco. Although he remains the head of the Court system, Sarria has designated his heir to be Empress Nicole the Great of San Diego, his protege and a community activist of his own standing nationwide.
For over half a century, Jose Sarria, the one-time "Nightingale of Montgomery Street," has nurtured, protected and guided San Francisco and North America's gay communities through McCarthyism, the backlash against gay rights, AIDS, and even the occassional bad makeup job. He is truly a living hero and role model for all lesbigaytrans people or anyone who admires courage and optimism against daunting odds.
Well, yesterday the Widow Norton was a bit perturbed at her "spouse", the Emperor Norton, whom she considers responsible for seeing that her annual trip to the cemetery has good weather. The weather was not just bad; it was horrid. Cold blustery winds threw sheets of rain every which way on top of the hill where the Emperor is buried. But there was still a hardy bunch of drag queens, Imperial Court current and former members, supporters of the gay community, and assorted individuals and groups who'd been asked by the Widow to perform. And though most of us tried to dress for the weather, what's a girl to do if she just has to look her best at this event? I mean how could anyone go to Colma Cemetery without wearing her high heels?
Only ten of us from the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of SF sang this year, a fact that disappointed me greatly since we have 36 members. Unfortunately, our director's father had a health crisis and was hospitalized over the weekend so Michael had to be in Las Vegas. Then our accompanist was also unable to attend so we had to sing to a tape that had very strange tempos. Our warm-up was more stressful than this smiling photo shows, but the ten who were there were real troupers and our performance went well enough.
This was the 21st anniversary of this particular event, and as always, the Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma (south of San Francisco) graciously put on a continental breakfast and, because of the rain, had tents set up for us at Emperor Norton's gravesite. Another of those "Only in San Francisco" occurrences! At the breakfast I met this year's just-crowned Emperor and Empress of San Francisco who kindly let me share a photo opwith their Imperial Highnesses.
Because of La Lucha my scooter, I was able to join the procession going up to the gravesite this year. In years past I received a ride from cemetery officials who offer assistance to anyone who is unable to walk the long distance up the hill. As always, the procession was led by the San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Freedom Marching Band, and believe me, by the time we reached the site, everyone was pretty well drenched! I was one of the lucky ones who crowded under the two tents, but even so I couldn't really see the performances. Instead I spent my time looking at the wonderful people around me. The woman in a red hat. The beauties I showed you yesterday. A young man in a tiara with his friends. San Francisco's Empress from last year (2000). A member of the Imperial Court in his black hat with veil accessorizing his black leather pants and jacket.
I must admit I'm enjoying
the experience much more in retrospect that I did at the time.
I was not a real happy camper yesterday--just too cold and wet.
Ah well, the Widow promised that next year we'll meet inside in
the chapel. Two years of rain in a row can dampen the most anyone's
enthusiasm, even an almost 80 year-old drag queen like Her Imperial
Majesty Empress Jose 1. Maybe she's lost her taste for our rainy
season since she moved down to Palm Springs in December. I for
one will not be disappointed to know that I'll be dry at Colma
Cemetery in March 2002!
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2001
Just when I was getting cranky with all this rain, spring appeared. By now I don't ask for extended sun, one day at a time works fine. And I guess it's just as well because another storm system is due on Thursday. But today! Ah, so sweet.
A hummingbird appeared above the apple tree as I sat in the garden this morning, hovered a couple seconds, then perched on the uppermost branch. Hummingbirds don't do stillness very well, so even while perched, he craned his neck this way and that, pointing his beak in every direction like an erratic compass. After a timeless minute or two, he soared out of sight. This is a photo I took shortly after he'd departed. Do you hear the whiz of his wings?
It was not a day to stay home, so La Lucha and I ventured out to see what we could see. By the way, it was the first day I've dared leave home without a jacket.
Though I had one errand on my list of "have-to's", I let La Lucha have her head and take me where she wanted to go. Funniest thing! She took me to Mitchell's, San Francisco's homemade ice cream emporium since 1953. A few other folks had the same idea, in particular my new friends, B., G. and L. After I got a cup of white pistachio ice cream, I asked these young people to take a picture of me slurping it up. Then they kindly let me reciprocate and take a picture of them. One of the best parts of keeping an illustrated online journal is the people I meet through it--virtually and in the flesh (so to speak).
After devouring that unexpected treat, I took the back way over to Church Street. It was time for a new bouquet from Mia's Flowers, my favorite of all SF flower shops. They have the most extensive selection and their flowers last far longer than most. I was immersed in a never-never land of color, fragrance and beauty when I heard a voice behind me. "Hi Patricia!"
It was Lori B, a singer/songwriter whom I've seen perform at the last two National Women's Music Festivals in Indiania. She and I first met at a Bernal Heights coffee house three years ago when she and her friend starting talking to me because, as she says, "You looked interesting." Lori B has an extraordinary talent and is now, happily, traveling all over, including Japan in April. We chatted briefly then each went back to the creative choices before us. Once I'd finally made my decisions, C. snipped the stems, wrapped my bouquet in brown paper and cashed me out. La Lucha looked deliciously springlike with fresh flowers in her basket.
One more stop: the errand I'd originally left home to accomplish. I scooted down to the Walgreen's drug store at 23rd and Mission, picked up my necessary item and took it to the check-out counter. One thing I'm learning with MS is to give up being embarrassed about much of anything. As Walgreens was out of large shopping bags, I scooted home with a big bag of well-marked Slip-On adult diapers over the arm of my scooter.
Back in the cottage, I arranged the flowers and took this picture. In the background, you can see my new painting hanging on the kitchen wall. I love it there.
At 4:30 PM, C. came over to rehearse. We're going to lead songs at the Global Women's Strike Day events this Thursday and wanted to try out some of the Raging Granny lyrics we've received from different groups. These are sing-along politically-pungent lyrics set to tunes like "Tea for Two", "Shall We Dance" and even "Jesus Loves Me". Pretty simple stuff. After we finished our rehearsal, I talked C. into singing and playing her guitar for me. She is a truly gifted musician.
My dinner was P.O.'s leftover baked cod, seasoned rice, black beans and sauteed zucchini. You know, for someone who literally forgets to eat--often until 7 or 8 PM at night--I sure do my share of writing about food. As I explained to my writer friend, J.G., on the phone tonight, one of the easiest ways to write descriptively is to write about food. A piece of cake...literally.
OK, when puns start cropping
up, it must be time for bed.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7, 2001
Days like this remind me of when I used to sing vocal improvisation in workshops with Joey Blake and with Rhiannon, in particular those moments when another's vocalizing sends you down melodically mysterious paths you would never have found on your own. So it was today with my friend, J.G.
I received an email this morning saying he would be in town to work with a client and wondered if I might be free for lunch. Happily I was. He first called, then drove over and picked me up in his new car, "an environmentally friendly mini SUV". J. is such a pollution-sensitive guy that he's had to justify this purchase to himself even though it is his first new car in a long time--"I buy one every 14 years whether I need it or not"--and is the perfect vehicle to take him on hiking trips into the wilderness that he loves. Our destination today was his favorite dim sum restaurant out in the Avenues. Turned out to be the same excellent Chinese restaurant I went to with friends a few weeks back.
I'll try not to go into oral ecstacy again, but believe me, this was a meal to savor. You sit at your table and every couple minutes serving persons stop by with trays of new delicacies. If you're tempted, simply nod and they put a plate of it on the wooden lazy susan in the middle of the table. Oh my! Here I go again. Huge seasoned shrimp crispy-fried in their full shells, marinated cold fresh spring asparagus, several kinds of shrimp and vegetable dumplings, mango pudding, lemon tarts, and hot tea to drink. I'm sure you can understand why J. and I are smiling in this picture.
Since we weren't far from the ocean, we decided to drive down Geary to the Cliff House overlook. On the way J. just had to take a short detour to see the Palace of the Legion of Honor, the classical museum where my chorus--the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco--had its winter concert a few weeks back. As J. lives in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge, he rarely has such an opportunity to explore the city.
And then we were at the Cliff House overlook where we parked illegally in a tour bus space, got out and took photos of the ocean and the ruins of the Sutro Baths. This was a mammoth indoor/outdoor swimming palace built on the cliffs beside the ocean back in 1886. It was unfortunately allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that it was sold for demolition in 1966 and burned to the ground shortly thereafter. What extraordinary vision Sutro had! If you're interested in reading something of its history, click here.
We got back in the car intending to drive down the hill toward Golden Gate Park, but the sun glistening on the water stopped me. J. kindly parked the car again--this time just below the Cliff House--got out and took these two photos: first, of the shimmering ocean; and second, overlooking Ocean Beach. This, the city's largest public beach, is a favorite not only of surfers, hardy swimmers, dogs and their owners, runners, kite-flyers, walkers, children of all ages...but artists as well. Note the spiral drawing in the sand.
Once down the hill, we pulled into one of the Ocean Beach parking spaces. J. jumped out of the car, ran over to the breakwall where S.W. and I had stood only a week before and took this picture of foggy sky, ocean surf and expanse of sand at low tide.
By now about 40 minutes remained until it was time for me to get back across town for Simply Supper, and J.G. to meet with his client in the Castro. The Queen Wilhemina Tulip Garden in Golden Gate Park was the final note of today's improvisational duet. Carpets of purple pansies led to a circle of tulips that were just beginning to bloom in the center of the garden. I sat on a park bench and enjoyed the sights around me, the most pleasing being J.'s smile as he examined the tulips, his favorite childhood flower. In a week or two this garden will look quite riotous with its masses of red, purple, yellow, pink and white tulips. Maybe we can return then.
J. got me to Simply Supper right on time. I was gratified to experience it again as a gentle-spirited place, comfortable for all who cooked, served and ate there.
There's not one note I'd
change in the music of this day.
THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 2001
International Women's Day. Global Women's Strike Day. It was good to be at the heart of it this year.
Ever since I started spending winters in San Francisco, I've missed being in Detroit for International Women's Day. We traditionally have a daylong event sponsored by women's labor organizations and community groups. Detroit is such an activist city and women are the power running through much of it. Different individuals and groups have booths with literature, arts, educational materials, you name it. I vended my women's art there a couple of years. There's usually a series of speakers telling about the amazing, often hidden, work they're doing with city youth, the homeless, urban renewal projects, Detroit Summer (for out-of-town youth who want an experience of urban activism), affordable housing, labor strike issues, environmental activism around the toxic waste dumps in poor neighborhoods, and creating organic gardens in the city. Drummers and singers perform--my Notable Women chorus among them--and poets have readings. Then the monthly Detroit Women's Coffee House is always held that Saturday night as well. Such a celebration of women!
I've looked for similar events in the Bay Area since I started spending my winters out here in 1996. My first year, the Woman's Building put on a powerful evening dedicated to the concerns of women in prisons. Angela Davis spoke, as did a number of women who had been part of the system as prisoners and as guards. I learned a lot that night, especially about the appalling medical care received by women in prisons and jails. But since then, I never again heard about a SF International Women's Day event. I now realize that was mostly because I was not part of any Bay Area women's networks. Things were happening; I just didn't hear about them.
But everything changed for me this year, and I have our new President to thank for it. At the mammoth anti-Bush demonstration/march held at the Civic Center the day George W. was inaugurated, I met two women--R. and S.--holding a sign about the Global Women's Strike to be held in San Francisco on March 8, International Women's Day. They asked if I'd be interested in helping to plan the event. When I heard their Crossroad's Women's Center was within scooting distance of my cottage, I said "Sure!" and gave them my phone number and email address. A couple weeks later I attended my first planning committee meeting.
So today was the big day...and it didn't even rain! We planned two events, one during the day and another after work. The first was a two-hour vigil/press conference starting at noon in front of City Hall called, "We're not out to lunch, We're on strike!" As it turned out that was my only event. My body made it very clear she was done after I had expended all my available energy between 11 AM and 3:30 PM. But even as I write this entry, women have been gathering for "An Evening of Celebration and Protest" at a downtown church from 6-10 PM. I'm glad I listened to my body. If that isn't a celebration of woman, I don't know what is.
I woke up early this morning and made a sign for La Lucha with the words, "Global Women's Strike Day--Pay Our Caregivers!" The group organizing this second annual strike is the International Wages for Housework Campaign based in London, England. My friends spearhead the San Francisco chapter. The Global Women's Strike demands include "payment for all caring work", pay equity, paid maternity leave, abolition of "Third World debt", accessible clean water, healthcare, housing, transport, literacy. Last year women in 65 countries participated; this year they expected that number to increase.
I got on the road at 11 AM. Because the Civic Center BART elevators are being renovated, I had to get off at Powell Street and scoot a mile back to the Civic Center and City Hall. But it was an opportunity for me to wish "Happy International Women's Day!" to women I met along the way. With my sign so visible on the front of the scooter, I received a number of responses. A thumbs-up and smile came from a Latino man on his bike in the Mission. Another man stopped to tell me of the caregiving work he's done since he was a child. A homeless woman laughed when she read my sign. I invited her to come over to the vigil and she said she might. I also invited a handsome white-haired woman with a nose-ring, who did join us. Getting there was half the fun.
All told, probably 35 women and men gathered at the foot of the City Hall steps during the two hours of the vigil. While we were still setting up, a man walked by and offered to take a group photo of the women already there, six of whom were part of the planning committee. L. called us together and began by explaining what the strike was about. Then R. reported on some of the global events with which we were meeting in solidarity. Next C. and I led four Raging Grannies songs. I'd made song sheets so everyone could join us--which they did. These songs use well known tunes like "Shall We Dance" and "Tea for Two" with women's strike lyrics, some of which are pretty pungent.
The heart of the vigil was a Speak Out where invited guests and participants were able to share their stories relating to women's struggles of all kinds. Homelessess and the disrespectful changes proposed at the largest SF women's shelter were discussed by a member of the Homeless Coalition. A single mother talked about what Clinton's so-called Welfare Reform has done to welfare mothers.
A grad student from UC Berkeley pointed out the effects of the loss of Affirmative Action on their campus. She described a student body with few African-American students and a very male-dominated faculty.
The energy crisis in California and its environmental and political ramifications were addressed by B. from the Green Party. C. discussed the racial disenfranchishment that was prevalent in Election 2000.
I talked about the invisibility of women with disabilities because of the difficulty getting assistive devices like scooters and electric wheelchairs funded by insurance companies and government medical plans like Medicare and Medicaid. That led to a call for caregivers--especially family members, lovers, spouses and friends--to be paid.
Then Tom Ammiano, the liberal gay president of the SF Board of Supervisors, came out to speak, encouraging our efforts to promote systemic political change. A woman from Canada told us about their national health care that allows five hours of paid caregiving a day, but only to professional caregivers. She also brought up the important issue of the lack of rights of refugee and immigrant women, even in Canada.
The Woman Walking Tall who had come to be part of the vigil spoke about her work with women in Mexico. And though the woman beside her in the photo,K., did not speak out, she and I had good conversations. She's been an activist since the '60s and found out about this event online.
Even though we were on a sidewalk beside a busy street--good thing we had a sound system!--everyone listened closely and offered enthusuastic response to each person's sharings. We even had a fair turnout of men supporting the strike, including two fellows from Food Not Bombs who provided our lunch.
I'm glad I was part of the noon vigil and equally glad I had the wisdom to stay home when I got tired. And in a way I felt like I was back in Detroit because after I'd mentioned the city when I spoke out, two other women who got up to speak said they were originally from Detroit as well!
When I talked to the man who knows me better than any person on earth and told him about my day and how I'd cancelled out of attending the evening Strike event, his response was to quote this poem of Edna St. Vincent Millay's:
My candle burns at
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes,
And oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light.
FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2001
This is my sweetie's 71st birthday. It's hard being away from him today. That man is such a treasure. May the Universe give him awareness of how special he is, how deeply loved and how much his life means to others. Of all the people I've met in my almost 59 years, E.D. is one of the most original thinkers, ethical physicians, and authentic individuals I've encountered. I remember in our early years of marriage his inability to dissimulate used to drive me crazy. I just wasn't used to being around a person who was totally himself no matter what. It took me years to appreciate his truth-filled way of being in the world. Now I try to emulate it.
At 3 PM this afternoon I'll be picked up by a vanload of women from Half Moon Bay and we'll head north over the Golden Gate Bridge up to Pt. Reyes near the coast. Kate Munger, our Threshold Choir director, is producing a weekend of song with Susan Osborn. Tonight's concert will also feature Rhiannon, one of my former teachers and favorite performers. Then we'll spend the night at the Pt. Reyes Youth Hostel. I'm still wondering if I'm ready to sleep in a lower bunk in a dorm...but for $14, who can be choosey? Tomorrow, Susan will facilitate a singing workshop from 1-4 PM. I'm looking forward to experiencing her in person.
Around 1990, I was introduced to Susan Osborn's singing at our friend N.M.'s home set on 20 acres of woodland, an hour and a half north of Detroit. N. had a large collection of tapes that I made my way through whenever E.D. and I spent time at her house. What sweet years. When N.M. went back east to visit her five kids and their families--which was often and for extended periods of time--she would offer the house to E.D. and me. It was a small, simple place with a windowed room out back where we spent many lovely days and evenings reading and just sitting. Blue birds, hummingbirds, blue herons and deer were regular visitors, not to mention the frogs who greeted every dusk with deep-throated enthusiasm.
I remember falling in love with a tape by Susan Osborn and playing it over and over for months on end. When I close my eyes I can see myself sitting on the wooden swing under the cottonwood tree, gazing over the pond into the woods beyond, listening to Susan Osborn's voice soaring on the winds.
I'm giving myself the
day off journal-writing tomorrow, but will return on Sunday. May
your weekend sing sweetly whatever song you long to hear.
SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2001
Good thing I let myself take yesterday off from journal writing. I didn't get back to my cottage until 10 PM last night. All I would have written at that point was that I was too tired to write and would tell all on Sunday. Which is exactly what I plan to do now.
It was a wonderful time away. Strangely enough, the best parts were those I'd been most anxious about ahead of time. And the original reasons for the trip ended up being not so important. Such is the paradoxical nature of life...my life anyway.
Pt. Reyes is exceptionally beautiful. It is known for whale-watching opportunities off the coast, miles and miles of hiking trails throughout the National Park, and a charming town called Pt. Reyes Station that boasts very good restaurants. If one is fortunate enough to miss heavy traffic going over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the densely populated parts of Marin County, it might take only an hour to drive there from San Francisco; it took us an hour and a half even though we managed to get out of the city by 4 PM on Friday.
The drive itself is half the delight, at least once one turns off Highway 1 North onto Lucas Hollow Road going west. Green velvet hills--at least green after the rainy season--roll to the right and left. It looks as I imagine Scotland must look.There is even a small stretch through a grove of coastal redwood trees. I can't imagine anyone ever tiring of this leg of the journey.
I had been anxious about my ride. T., a member of the Threshold Choir I sing in, had graciously agreed to come pick me up even though she and her friends had a full car and were driving up from Half Moon Bay, a half hour south of San Francisco. I'd tried to arrange another ride but nothing had worked out. Well, my anxiety was immediately alleviated by their cheery welcome and the surprise of seeing C., whom I'd met at the fall WoMaMu music camp. Besides, one of their number had decided not to come, so we were a very comfortable four in L.'s sumptuous van.
What a fun bunch of women! We sang and laughed and shared stories all the way up to Pt. Reyes. Once there, we made dinner reservations in town and drove out to the Youth Hostel where we were going to spend the night. The hostel was 15 minutes of windy-roads out of town in the middle of the National Park. It was fascinating to see how the forest has been regenerating itself after the devastating fire here in 1995. At the foot of each starkly charred old pine, new families of young lush green pine trees spread in every direction.
When we pulled into the hostel parking lot, a herd of white, cottontail and mule deer were grazing beside a cabin at the top of the driveway. They seemed undisturbed by us. The hostel itself was warm, simple and inviting, with a huge kitchen (my accessible entrance), a homey living room where a couple of guests were reading, and a men's and women's dormitory.
That had been another of my anxieties--sleeping in a dorm with a lot of other women. Well, it was certainly a tight fit with five bunkbeds (L. is pictured beside my lower bunk) and the adjoining bathroom with two toilet stalls. It reminded me of camp. But right away we connected with a young woman named J. who had come up for the weekend by herself from Santa Cruz. She happily joined us for dinner and the concert.
Our reason for coming to Pt. Reyes was to attend a Friday night concert in the Dance Palace with Susan Osborn, a superb vocalist who formerly sang with the Paul Winter Consort, and to be part of her Saturday afternoon singing workshop. We'd heard about it because our Threshold Choir founding director, Kate Munger, was producer of the events. I was also looking forward to seeing Rhiannon, a former teacher, perform with Susan on Friday night.
The Dance Palace, a beautifully designed wooden structure with high ceilings and tiers of folding chairs, felt intimate yet professional. Susan came out after a simple introduction by Kate, sat down and began to sing an acappella selection based on a verse from the bible. Though the lyrics did not move me, her clear bell-like voice did. She sang several songs, sometimes accompanying herself on piano or guitar, sometimes simply letting her voice make its capable way alone. As she sang, it was as if we could hear her heart expanding through her voice. When she invited Rhiannon to join her on stage, their combined energy seemed to set songs on fire. And so it continued with three other guest musicians. After intermission, it was as though we, the audience, were privileged participants in a jam session between vocalists who pushed one another to unexpected heights. After three hours, we literally soared out the door and into our van.
The magic continued. Can you imagine being surrounded by high hills nowhere near city lights on a mild night under a bright full moon and glistening stars? We sang every moon song we could think of before turning in for the night. And, I'm happy to report, not one of the 10 women in our dorm snored!
We awoke to a sunny spring day. Folks took showers, dressed, rolled up their sleeping bags, made oatmeal, brewed tea, poached eggs, toasted bread, and sat out together on the patio/deck area in the front of the hostel. We talked and sang. A lovely mother and her baby daughter joined us. T. played with the baby and the baby played with windchime walker. Before going inside to do chores--a traditional part of staying in a hostel--we set up a date to circle sing in my garden on Sunday, March 25 from 1-4 PM. Before leaving, my group stopped to sing a Croatian song that L. and C. knew from their World Harmony Choir.
Next came an unanticipated gift. My three companions went off for an hour-long hike on the Coast Trail, and I was left to sit at the trailhead by myself. Pure bliss. Birds swooped and sang around me, the sun moved higher in the sky, I looked out over bushes, trees and hills, a handful of hikers and birdwatchers walked by, I sang in the silence and let the silence sing in me. I didn't know how much I'd missed being alone with earth, sky and creatures who call these elements their home. My city garden is sweet but there's nothing like breathing fresh clean air and hearing the subtle sounds of nature.
We then drove into town. While I sat in the van waiting for my companions to return from shopping, I was happy to see my friend S.S.'s smiling face peer around the open door at my side. We had planned to drive home together if she came up to the workshop.
The church where the workshop was to be held was close by. My friends and I sat in the warm sun on the green grass out front and enjoyed our picnic lunch. Soon it was time to go inside and join Susan Osborn and 35 other women, a number of whom I'd sung with at one event or another.
The workshop was not what I had expected. I'd thought we would sing for three hours. Instead we listened to Susan talk about singing, we breathed in through our noses and out through our mouths making sounds, and then spent the rest of the time witnessing individual women breathing and sounding to deep places in themselves in the center of the circle. I missed singing.
But no matter, the delightful adventure continued with S.S. and our leisurely ride back to the city. She is a new friend and so we are at that wonderful stage of catching up on one another's life and thoughts and feelings. We talked and listened while driving along Lucas Hollow Road--not counting stops for phototaking--at dinner outside San Rafael, on our way across the Golden Gate Bridge, and down to the edge of the bay below Park Presidio. But once out of the car, standing beside slapping waves on the shore, with the orange-lit bridge to the left above us, city lights sparkling on our right, periodic flashes of the Alcatraz Island searchlight blinding us, the full moon in a star-crowded sky, its rays spreading across the water...silence replaced our words.
This overnight was another
in an endless series of learnings. Life will turn your anticipations
and fears upside down...so don't get too attached to either one.
MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2001
One month from tonight I'll be back home in Detroit. In years past, when I saw my winter stay in San Francisco coming to a close, I'd feel sad. That's not true this year. I wonder why? I'm actually looking forward to being with my sweetie again in our cozy home--I've missed him. And I have such a wonderful community of women friends in Michigan and Ontario--I've missed them too. Life is as rich there as here; it simply takes different forms.
But I must say I'm glad I was here rather than there today. In our daily phone call, E.D. described Detroit's weather as cool and grey, with rain in the forecast. San Francisco, on the other hand, boasted a true spring day--a sunny, short-sleeve-shirt kind of day. La Lucha and I celebrated it by scooting off to Dolores Park.
Instead of taking 18th Street west from Valencia, I turned on 19th to see the beautiful murals on the front of the old Mission pool building. I first discovered this building back in January, but had not taken time to examine it. It has a lot more to it than I realized.
For one thing, it houses the Mission Living Skills Center. I scooted inside and saw an enthusiastic group of elders enjoying a game of bingo (in Spanish, of course). Along the walls were computers with young people hard at work. Outside, tots were playing on playground equipment with mothers and a couple of fathers looking on. There were tennis courts and a basketball court with a couple boys shooting baskets. None of this was visible from 19th Street: from there it looked abandoned. Hardly! I asked about the pool, and a man said it opens on warm days like this. "You'll see a sign out in front."
I scooted around to the other side of the building and got a closer look at the murals. When I pulled onto the side street, I was amazed to find a long, much more modern mural called "Twentieth Street". Such life and energy depicted! Among other things, there were young folks breakdancing and soccer players and community elders. Over the pool entrance, it showed the fires from the 1906 earthquake and how open fire hydrants on 20th Street stopped its spread into the Mission.
After awhile, I continued on to Dolores Park. Because I approached it from 19th instead of 18th Street, I discovered a paved road that winds up the hill into the interior. For the first time, La Lucha and I could enter the park instead of staying on its periphery.
It is so beautiful. There's a playground for the kids, tennis courts that are always in use, and dogs running free with their owners or dogwalkers watching them as fondly as Moms and Dads watching their kids at the playground. On a day like today, folks are sunbathing, reading, enjoying a picnic lunch, jogging, roller blading, skateboarding, throwing a ball or smiling for a photo. The views of the city skyline at the top of the hill are stunning.
I just sat and soaked it all in. I then pulled out a book I'm reading with great interest--Marion Woodman's cancer journals called Bones, "Dying into Life". By 3 PM my tummy said "Feed me!", so I scooted down to the Dolores Park Cafe on the corner of 18th and Dolores. Everyplace I went, people were smiling. That's what Spring can do.
J.U. came to the cottage at 5:30 PM and gave me an hourlong massage. I was pleased to hear her comment, "Your body seems much more quiet today." That's a good sign. Of course, after such a glorious day, how could my body be anything but peaceful.
I am so incredibly fortunate
to be able to live as I do. May I always be grateful.
TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 2001
A gratifying part of this lovely Spring day was running into the Not-So-Gentle Giant in Dolores Park. Ever since the fight at Simply Supper two weeks ago, I've been concerned about him. Being "86ed"--as he was because of his violent outburst--means he can never return to Simply Supper, or to MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) for that matter. I've been wondering where he would go. And now I know at least one place he can go, and that is to Dolores Park.
I was ten minutes early meeting my friend D.W. for lunch at the Dolores Park Cafe, so I scooted across the street to the park. There was someone asleep in a big blue sleeping bag beside the tennis courts. I noticed but didn't think too much about it. Unfortunately, homeless folks asleep in doorways and in the parks are pretty common sights in San Francisco.
After a leisurely lunch with D.W., I again scooted across the street, this time intending to go back to that sweet spot in the park that I'd discovered yesterday. As I went by the tennis courts, I saw the person in the blue sleeping bag get up and start to fold his stuff. I immediately recognized him.
"Hi! How are you? It's good to see you. I've been thinking about you." He smiled but did not look at me. "Well, I sure hope things are going well for you. Take care." He smiled again, but kept his eyes on the ground. I scooted up the hill.
At least he seems all right.
This day had other sweet moments. As D.W. will be celebrating her 73rd birthday on Saturday, I wanted to bring her a gift and a card. On the way over to the cafe, I stopped at The Scarlet Sage Herb Store on Valencia between 23rd and 22nd Streets. The door was opened by one of the owners, D., and at the cash register was her partner, L. These women have great meaning in my life, though I haven't seen either one since they moved their store from 22nd near Guerrero to its present location three years ago.
Back in November 1996, these two women midwifed the birth of windchime walker in a way I'm sure they didn't recognize. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I had finally succumbed--or so it felt--to getting a walker. I'd called a local pharmacy that morning and they delivered it about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. With tears diluting the acrylic medium, I immediately started collaging this ugly aluminum reminder of my greatest fear--that of ending up alone in a nursing home. About two hours later, with the walker partially collaged, I decided to try it out in the neighborhood. I folded it, hooked it over one arm, and hanging tightly onto the banister, carefully made my way down two long flights of stairs to the street.
I'd decided on a walker because of my most recent face-first fall. This one had landed me in St. Luke's Hospital Emergency Room the night before. Though the gash above my right eye did not need stitches--a butterfly bandage sufficed--it was clear that I had to find a way to protect myself from these too frequent falls. My cane was no longer enough. A lightweight fold-up walker seemed the best option. It would hopefully catch me before I fell forward--as was my tendency--and I could carry it up the stairs to my sublet apartment. Besides it only cost $80. I arranged for it to have four wheels so it would roll more easily on sidewalks, which was where I planned to use it.
In the month I'd lived in this neighborhood, I'd found the farthest I could walk was 4-5 blocks. Every time I'd walk down to 22nd Street, I could see an intriguing store halfway up the block, but as it was beyond my range, I'd never been there. My first time out with the walker I was pleasantly surprised to see that my range was extended by several blocks. So I explored 22nd Street and discovered the store I'd been attracted to was called The Scarlet Sage. And, though it was now 6:30 PM and their sign said that was when they closed, the two women inside motioned for me to come in.
D. and L. were so gentle with me that night. I must have looked pretty pathetic with my swollen black/blue/purple eye, and I'm sure my "good" eye must have been red-rimmed from crying. They first got me some Arnica Montana--which I'd never heard of until then--for the black eye. And as I looked around their small shop, I was attracted to a deerskin pouch of protection herbs. It seemed just the thing. We hung it from the walker's front crossbar and that was the start of this formerly despised device becoming my dear windchime walker. I credit Dino and Lisa with helping to make it happen.
This morning I reminded them of our shared story. Both D. and L. remembered that night; D. even remembered my name! Significantly, I bought another pouch from them--two, in fact--but instead of being deerskin holding herbs, they were sparkling beaded necklace pouches. Celebratory pouches. D. insisted on giving me another protection aid--a moonstone--that is to protect travelers and offer balance. She put it inside my pouch.
D.W. was delighted with her pouch necklace decorated in gold and silver moons and stars on a deep blue background. I placed my special pouch on my favorite artist-painted cotton jacket to photograph it for the journal. I wish you could see how it glistens in the sun!
I feel this marks a rite
of passage I've undergone these past four and a half years. Passing
from the idea of disability as loss, to the knowing of my body--whatever
its limits--as worthy of celebration.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, 2001
An old friend has been emailing me of late with his musings on life. P.D. is a creative man to whom metaphor and symbol hold great meaning. In his work as hospital chaplain, mental health administrator, retreat facilitator and body worker, he is often called upon to help people try to make sense out of seemingly senseless pain, injury, body/emotion/spirit distress, even death. He shared his latest symbol--that of a crossroads where matter meets spirit--and then asked what metaphor is meaningful to me now. When asked, I realized that metaphor is no longer a tool that I use to understand life and its workings. So what has taken its place?
It's hard to put into words, but I guess I'd call it existing in "what-isness", or the real.Back when symbol dominated my thoughts and perceptions, I often used them to distance myself from what was going on around and within me. World events, interpersonal relationships, emotional upheavals, spiritual crises--all could be withstood if kept at the arm's length of metaphor. If I could create a story in which to contain the seeming chaos of life, I could tolerate its ambiguity and paradox. I don't need to do that anymore.
When I stay with life as it is and don't try to understand or make sense or transform it into something it's not, then I stay grounded and centered. Perhaps living with a chronic progressive condition for thirteen years helps. My body is teaching me to stay attuned to its workings, respect its limits and use all its capabilities. I must stay in the moment. If I don't, I put myself at risk.
So this day in its isness was more than enough. Lunch with M.R. and E.S., the dear friends who rent me this lovely cottage. Our walk/scoot down the street where we saw a 15 year old dog outfitted in a purple coat. Hearing M. say, "Look, Patricia! There's the perfect dog for you!" She always calls me the Purple Lady because of my guess-what-color wardrobe. Errands up on 24th Street and a new pair of colored glass earrings for spring. Simply Supper and being with all my friends there. Driving with S.W. and P.O. up to Twin Peaks at dusk while we waited for our order of Indian food to be ready for pick-up. S.W.'s beautiful photos of downtownand south of Market. His wonderfully silly picture of their dog Halvah "driving". Then seeing the sunset over the ocean on the other side of the peak. And finally having my friends join me in the cottage for a delicous Indian feast.
Life simply is.
THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 2001
I spent a most engaging afternoon with two women I would define as true mystics: D.D., the originator of the Imagination Questionnaire I filled out last November, and my friend, D.W., author of Marrow of Flame (a book of her spiritual poetry). D.D. had been a virtual connection until today, as all our correspondence had been through email. I have my friend D.W. to thank for the opportunity to be part of D.D.'s doctoral dissertation...and for today's special time together.
We started with lunch at Green's Restaurant. The best restaurant in San Francisco in my humble opinion. Its always fresh, imaginatively prepared vegetarian food. Beautiful setting with a wall of windows showcasing the marina, the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and the city to the south. Waitpersons who are always friendly, helpful and possessed of a light touch in their work. Here is our waitperson (on the left) and his compatriots folding napkins--what he called their "daily meditation". You can see from my picture of D.W. and D.D., and their picture of me, how happy we all were to be together.
After a leisurely lunch, we drove out to the sumptuous Sea Cliff neighborhood on the ocean side of the Golden Gate Bridge and parked at the China Beach overlook. There we talked at least another hour before getting out of the car to feel the strong ocean breezes and take a picture or two.
Five hours together and we just scratched the surface of interweavings that run through our three lives. But with the help of the internet, our homes in Vancouver, B.C. (D.D.), San Francisco (D.W.) and Detroit/San Francisco (me) are never too distant from one another.
I returned to the cottage
at 5:15 PM. The thought of going out again at 6:45 PM to attend
chorus rehearsal made me tired. So I again listened to my body
and allowed myself to stay home. I wonder when I will return to
the Lesbian/Gay Chorus rehearsals? When my body says so.
FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2001
I decide to go back to college. The time is the present. I am in my late 50s and slightly disabled. I'm going to take English with my college professor, Dr Mary Lynch Johnson, and History with my high school teacher, Mr. McBlair--two of the best teachers I ever had. This college expects its students to live on campus.
There is an empty cot in one of the dorm rooms and I claim it. Each room is crowded with cots. A woman I knew from high school, M.F., is one of my roommates. She is as she was in high school--serious, hardworking and extremely intelligent. She and I get along fine. I go to the first class which is English. Dr. Johnson is just as intellectually demanding as ever. I enjoy the challenge.
It is now the middle of the semester. I've been working at a flea market/recycle booth on the streets. My boss is a Middle Eastern man who is kind and fun to work with. I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing, which is basically schmoozing with folks and occasionally selling or bartering goods. I'm good at it. During all this time, I've continued to live in the dorm and to see myself as a college student. But suddenly one day I realize I've missed every class except that first English class with Dr. Johnson. I've never attended any of Mr.McBlair's History classes. I am not distured by this awareness, merely surprised.
I go to my room to take a nap. M.F. comes bursting into the room with a man friend beside her. She starts lambasting me for my irresponsible attitude toward school. This leads into her blaming me for my easy life, since I am supported financially by others (at first, that seemed to be my husband, but later, my parents). I was not at all defensive, but rather told her I could understand her anger since she has always had to make it on her own, even raising a child as a single mother. She insists I find another room to sleep in. I agree.
I go outside where there are lots of cots in a rather marshy field. I try to find an empty one, but everytime I begin to put my things down, someone says, "Oh, that's so-and-so's bed." A woman friend and I talk. In our conversation I begin to see that it isn't fair for me to stay on campus if I'm not going to attend classes. After all, my folks are paying good money for my tuition. I decide to leave. Besides, I've found what I really want to do--work retail--and I won't need more education to do that.
Right before I wake up, I am looking for a phone to call my parents. I'm a little uneasy because I don't like disappointing them.
This morning's dream was a variation of the old I-haven't-studied-for-my exams theme. What was new was how I felt about it. I wasn't particularly anxious or upset, simply surprised. And the part about my having found an activity/work that pleased me more than school was a completely new twist. I'm not surprised that it involved being out on the streets with people.
Before having this dream, I'd awakened briefly and begun asking myself what I would write about in today's journal entry. I also wondered when I would write it since I had plans to go over to R.M.'s for dinner with friends. I didn't want to be starting to write late at night as has been happening lately.
I love keeping this online journal. Actually it would be hard to imagine not writing it every day. But I've noticed that it's beginning to slide into being more of an obligation than a free choice. Especially since it now takes me anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on how many photos I take that day. What came to mind was that I feel my journal has to be entertaining, and that feels like pressure. In a strange way, the more successful it becomes, the more I expect of myself. Like every day has to be a zinger! This, by the way, is my stuff; nothing that anyone else has put on me. I think my dream was trying to help me work with these feelings.
As is so often the case with dreams, I suspect I'll grow into an understanding of it. But what I recognize now is its feeling tone. Rather laid back, undefensive, comfortable with how I'd chosen to live my life, while trying to be sensitive to others' feelings and expectations. Sounds like very good attitudes to cultivate regarding my work as journal-keeper.
In keeping with these
attitudes, I will now entertain you...mainly because I don't feel
I have to. When I started working at the computer this
afternoon, I heard K.P. and her dog, Bags, playing in the garden.
I stood at my door and took this, my first series of action photos.
What fun! So follow K.P. and Bags as they romp together by clicking
on photo 1...2...3...4...5...6.
SATURDAY, MARCH 17, 2001
I feel unsettled. When I returned home after a lovely day at the ocean with a friend, my neighbors met me with the news that one of them had encountered an intruder in their kitchen early this afternoon. They feel he must have gotten into the garden area through the back gate and then opened their unlocked sliding glass door. We don't know whether he climbed over the wooden privacy fence or picked the lock. Nothing looked amiss when she opened the front door and walked into their flat after having been gone awhile. Neither of her roommates was at home. Until now, we'd all felt so safe that we'd gotten in the habit of leaving our doors unlocked onto the garden. That will change.
The fellow was young and nervous when she walked in on him. He tried to give her some story about being there to work in the garden and having been let in by a neighbor named John. When she insisted he leave, he did. My neighbors filed a police report.
It's most disturbing to feel unprotected in a place in which I've felt totally safe for the two winters I've lived here. M.R. called and assured me that she and E.S. will do what they can to make that back gate more secure, but even so, it is as if something has been defiled. I guess my image of this place as a secret garden has been tarnished. Ah well, as E.D. says, truth is simply the loss of illusion.
Until then, things had been idyllic. A sweet phone call this morning with my honey. Awakening to another warm sunny spring day. At 11 AM, my friend S.S. picked me up in her car and we headed south down coastal Highway 101 toward Pescadero. Along the way we marveled at fields of wild mustard, velvet green hills, rocky cliffs, sandy beaches at low tide, pounding surf and the deep aqua ocean.
After a half hour or so we pulled into a parking lot, got out of the car and leaned against massive boulders overlooking a beautiful beach. We saw a group of surfers heading toward their favored spot to enter the ocean and catch some waves. A young mother with a toddler in her arms was happily standing in surf. From where we stood, with the ocean spread out before us, the sound of the surf was both stimulating and soothing. This was a sweet spot, but my personal favorite was farther down the road.
Directly across from where one turns east toward the small town of Pescadero is a popular ocean overlook. We pulled in, parked, and got ready to spend some time--each in her own way. I headed out toward the edge of the cliff where I could sit on windchime walker and contemplate the glorious expanse of beach, rocks, ocean and sky. S.S. prepared to take a walk.
What a scene! To the south was a sandy beach. To the north, rock jetties and slapping surf. Directly in front of me, flowering ice plants and cascading rocks. Farther out, waves crashed against huge boulders. I watched folks walk out on that rocky promontory, take pictures, sit on the rocks, or climb down to the beach. Gulls flew overhead and red winged blackbirds sang in the grasses behind me. The smell of salt on strong ocean breezes encouraged me to breathe deeply. And wispy clouds in a blue sky added to the sense of peace.
After her walk, S.S. came and sat beside me before our bodies made their needs known--a restroom and then food, pronto! We went to Duartes--an excellent seafood restaurant in Pescadero--where we both enjoyed cream of artichoke soup and crab sandwiches. On the way home I didn't have much trouble talking my friend into stopping at Mitchell's for a couple of ice cream cones to cap off the day--chocolate-dipped coffee for her and praline pecan for me. Mine was incredibly sloppy as any self-respecting ice cream cone should be.
Unfortunately my neighbor's
news about the intruder made it somewhat hard for me to be totally
present (mind/heart/spirit) at the next event on my calendar--a
Chinese carry-out dinner/committee meeting here at my cottage
to evaluate the San Francisco Global Women's Strike Day. Nonetheless,
it was good to be with these wonderful women again. They'll be
off to London in a week to meet with the Global Women's Strike
coalition, so tonight was my first goodbye of the season. There
will be many more of those before April 10.
SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 2001
These warm spring days seem unending. Even so, I value each one...especially when I talk to E.D. in Detroit and he says--like he said today--"It's a beautiful day! Sunny and about 45º F." Sounds a bit chilly to me, California woman that I am (at least for three more weeks).
I had a deliciously free morning and used much of it sitting in the garden (surprise, surprise!). A white butterfly was flitting from flower to flower...strawberries, lavender and rosemary, among others. In the photo, you can see a white speck above the clay pot, that is if you look very carefully. I discovered that butterflies don't stop to pose--you have to catch them on the fly.
After a quick trip to the corner deli/organic grocery to stock up on (guess what!) Odwalla juice, La Lucha and I scooted up to a bookstore on 24th Street in Noe Valley. My special-ordered copy of E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful (the 1999 anniversary edition with commentary) had come in. My women's book group in Windsor, Ontario is reading it, and I'll be home in time to attend our April discussion.
I returned to the garden to start reading my book, and quickly realized it was time to divest myself of socks. This is a true marking of winter-into-spring: the first day I wear my Birkie sandals with bare feet! For me, nothing feels freer than letting my feet breathe fresh air.
I have quickly fallen in love with this book. And to think it was published in 1973! Where was I then? Nowhere near where I am now in consciousness--environmental, social, economic, political or even spiritual. I expect in 2029--if I live that long--I'll say the same about where I was way back in 2001. Schumacher, who died suddenly in 1977, certainly saw where things were headed, especially in relation to the western nations' view of natural resources as income, a renewable substance, instead of capital, a finite substance. What has been happening here in California regarding energy is the natural outcome of such a view. And the new US president's answer? Simply drill for more fossil fuels in ever more remote parts of the world. But, as Paul Hawken wrote in his 1999 Introduction, "Never before in history have independent groups from around the world derived frameworks of knowledge that are utterly consonant and in agreement...Some day, these dots are going to be connected."
At 2 PM members of my women's sacred circle began to arrive for our monthly gathering. It was still so warm that we met in the garden for our check-in (what's going on in our lives and where we are right now). Our ritual today was to play with torn colored craft paper pasted onto bristol board with acrylic medium. S.S. had graciously brought art materials and a book to show how this technique has been used as a spiritual tool. Since Tuesday is the Spring Equinox, I suggested we reflect on what has come into balance for us over the winter and celebrate by bringing it to image. We each found a quiet corner, inside and out, and played happily. After we were finished, I asked my friends to pose with their art. We then shared what each of us saw and felt about the process and/or the product. It was particularly interesting to hear what others saw in your work that you might not have seen. My what-I-thought was an abstract picture surprised me when I turned it sideways; it then became a purple flower with green leaves rising out of the dark.
Tonight I'm enjoying a
quiet evening at home. Yesterday's spooky feelings regarding the
intruder in my neighbors' kitchen have pretty much passed. I'll
still feel more comfortable when we secure the lock on our back
gate, but I'm no longer fearful that someone might be lurking
outside. I expect to sleep a lot better tonight. I deeply appreciate
the good energy I feel coming from my regular readers. Your web
of caring transcends the medium.
MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2001
I learned a lot by taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) today. D.W. and I were to meet at the elevator on the concourse level at 10:30 AM. I waited until the last possible moment to leave the sun and activity at 24th and Mission and take the BART elevator underground. Once there I saw two people scrubbing clean these massive metal machine parts. I asked what they were doing. Well, H. and E. told me they were cleaning the escalator steps. I'd never even thought of someone doing this job, but when I looked at the two piles of escalators--dirty and clean--it was amazing. We are talking pure elbow grease! They're part of a team that maintains the BART escalators, and this is one part of the job. Such friendly, good natured, hardworking people!
D.W. soon came down the elevator and we walked/scooted to the entrance to the trains. And there I saw one of my favorite persons hard at work selling newspapers. A. and I have been hugging-friends for the four winters I've lived in this neighborhood and have taken the BART. She has one of the world's great smiles.
The train to Oakland came less than five minutes after we'd gotten to the platform. I scooted into one of the 10 cars and quickly backed into a parking space inside the door so I can exit going forward. I'm getting lots of practice doing this manuver. D.W. sat across from me at first, and then moved closer so we could talk. Before we knew it, we'd come to our stop, the 19th Street/downtown Oakland station. This was when things got dicey.
One of the challenges for friends who accompany La Lucha and me on BART is getting from where we exit the train to where we pick up the elevator to the concourse. 19th Street is an especially long hike. As we passed an escalator, I recommended D.W. take it and I'd meet her upstairs. Can you tell what's coming next? Boy, I sure didn't. An hour later, I was still trying to find her. What we didn't realize was that this concourse--the level where you process your ticket--is three full blocks long! The elevator was at the 17th Street entrance, and the escalator, at 20th Street.
My learning this time was that each person makes decisions based on the information they possess. If their information is different, their choices will be surely be different. In this case, D.W. knew that I had directions to our friend G.D.J.'s new apartment because she'd given me a copy on the BART. I, on the other hand, did not know that D.W. also had these directions--I thought she'd given me her only copy. So she spent only 10-15 minutes trying to find me before she walked the six blocks to our friend's. I stayed around the BART station and a nearby street corner for an hour because I didn't want to leave her wandering around not knowing where to go. I finally gave up and scooted over to our friend's, expecting to encounter an anxious, perhaps angry G.D.J. Another learning.
When I arrived, G. and D. were halfway through their lunch in the beautiful dining room G. had wanted to show us. D.W. apologized profusely but I'm not sure she ever really understood why I'd waited so long trying to find her. As I say, different information produces different results.
After lunch, G. took us up to the roof to show us the magnificent views of the Oakland Hills on one side and the San Francisco skyline on the other. I took this picture of her and D. We then went to her 20th floor corner apartment. Wow! One whole wall is floor-to-ceiling windows with a balcony outside.She overlooks the Oakland Hills through those windows and Lake Merritt through the smaller window beside her computer desk. G. seems happy here, as do her two companions, Alice and Trudy, the cats. It is a retirement highrise that offers living arrangements from G.'s total independence to assisted living, and even a hospital floor. There are many benefits for her here, even though transportation into San Francisco is proving to be a challenge. But she's near her daughter, my friend V.D.J., whom she loves dearly. It seems like a good choice. After a pleasant visit, D. W. and I set off for home. This time we were very clear in arranging where we would meet to pick up the train at the 19th Street station!
I arrived home to the
happy sight of more secure brackets
protecting the back gate's lock. Thanks to E.S.
TUESDAY,MARCH 20, 2001
I feel like I've just had my hair cut by a hummingbird. Around 5 PM, I decided to stop by my local hair salon for a cut. It's one of those places where you sign in and take whichever person is available when your name is called. The woman who worked with me is young, very lovely and amazingly quick. It's as though we operate in different time zones. But I'm happy with the cut.
I find being slow moving physically has changed my psychic rhythm as well. It's as if I cannot be rushed without getting out of balance. When I'm around hummingbird energy, as with the haircutter today, it takes me awhile to regain my footing. Even my heart rate has to slow down to its natural pace.
Of course, today was a day for everyone to be slow moving. "We're having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave...", as the old song goes. Yesterday a million homes, offices, stores, restaurants and industries all over California suffered 2-4 hour blackouts. They blamed the heat, some energy plants being down, and PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) not having paid their bills. My favorite quote was from one of the hairdressers preparing for the Academy Awards in Los Angeles: "Did it have to happen the week of the Oscars?"
I know at least one creature who didn't care about the heat wave or power blackouts. Ditch, M.R. and E.S.'s kitty, took good care of her needs today. First she lay almost hiddenunder a bush. Then, after chasing a butterfly for a few minutes, she settled on the front stoop of my cottage. Finally, she lay briefly in the sun on the path near the bushes before disappearing into who-knows-where.
I was like Ditch. I found a shady spot to sit and read my book, Small Is Beautiful. That is until my neighbor's house alarm got triggered at 2:50 PM. After 45 minutes of earsplitting noise, I took off on La Lucha to find some quiet. Discovered later that it was an old alarm my neighbor had never used--it came with the house. Somehow, the housepainters set it off. Before I left for my quiet-seeking ride, I called the police. Apparently they checked things out and the fire department called my neighbor at work. Silence is golden after that, believe me.
As so often happens, that most unpleasant occurrence got me off my duff at the perfect time. On 24th near Dolores, I ran into one of my friends from Simply Supper and we had a grand conversation. G. is originally from Ireland. It sounds like his growing up years were similar to Frank McCourt in Angela's Ashes. For instance, he never had hot water or an inside toilet until he was 17. He said that was good training for how he lives now.
G. and four fellows live under a bridge up on Twin Peaks. He sleeps on a wooden pallet (no sleeping bag) and they cook over a Coleman stove. "I have my radio and earplugs, and don't really feel the cold." Today he was carrying a paper bag with food scraps for his neighbor's seven cats, of whom he's obviously very fond. G.'s attitude is quite positive and he keeps himself well groomed. You'd never pick him out as one of the "homeless". If nothing else, the folks I've gotten to know at Simply Supper have helped me get past such stereotypes.
After G. caught his bus, I scooted over to Mitchell's ice cream. I had to--after all, it was the first day of spring! This time I ordered a cup of ginger ice cream. It's my favorite so far. While a bunch of us sat outside and slurped up our treats, the fog rolled in and temperatures dropped dramatically. The sun was still out--it was 4:30 PM--but I needed to put on my cotton jacket, sandals and socks (I'd been riding La Lucha barefoot). It was then that I went up to 24th Street in Noe Valley to get my hair cut.
For the past two days, my cottage has smelled like a garden. Sunday, B.D. of our women's group brought over a bunch of jasmine branches that her son had trimmed from her bushes. They are now in a big bowl of water in my kitchen. And yesterday I brought G.D.J. a large bouquet of flowers, half of which she returned to me because her vase was too small. One of those flowers--the white one--is incredibly fragrant. I love it!
Speaking of jasmine, it's now 11:15 PM and my neighbor K.P. just brought me a hot cup of jasmine green tea. How I'm going to miss these wonderful women!
I wish everyone a very
happy Spring Equinox. May the blessings of balance--light into
dark--extend to our world and its people.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, 2001
My friend L.C. and I got together for lunch today.
He and I originally met while standing in line at Herbst Auditorium in February 1996. It was the first domestic partners mass marriage ceremony to be performed by Mayor Willie Brown and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. We were among hundreds of folks waiting to get a seat. My friend S.W. had driven me there from Emeryville, where I was subletting my first Bay Area apartment. He and A., the founding director of a gay quintet, had been asked to sing two romantic duets as part of the ceremony. We arrived early and S.W. dropped me off near the head of the line as he went backstage to get ready to perform. There was a buzz of excitement and crowds of international media present to witness this groundbreaking--very San Francisco--event.
L.C. and I stood in line for over an hour sharing stories about our lives. We discovered we had a number of things in common, including masters degrees in social work (MSW) and a sense of comfort in the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender world of San Francisco.
He had been born in Puerto Rico and immigrated to New York City at the age of 17. In the late 1950s, he was on his way to Los Angeles when the bus stopped in San Francisco. He never left. It was a city, even then, where he found it possible to claim his identity as a gay man. L.C. got his masters and later taught in the School of Social Work at the University of California at Berkeley. I believe he also worked at a Veterans Administration (VA) hospital and coordinated a community mental health program in San Francisco. Since his retirement, L.C. has completed the first volume of his autobiography, the Puerto Rican years.
Since 1996, I've been the fortunate recipient of L.'s creative cooking at his lovely home in West Portal. We were recalling today that our favorite of his original vegetarian entries--created especially for his friend Patreezia--was the chick peas with matzo balls. Yum!
After meeting here at my cottage at noon today, L. and I walked/scooted to a vegetarian restaurant a few blocks away. The food was delicious but just being together was the sweetest part of all. It was the first time we'd seen one another this winter. L. has devoted the past two months to helping members of his family through serious health crises. We're hoping things will soon lighten up.
On our walk/scoot to L.'s car after lunch, I showed him this window filled with china high-heeled shoes. It always makes me smile. We said goodbye and I took Dolores Street home. Along the way I encountered these geranium and jasmine bushes cascading over a black wrought iron fence. Very different from how geraniums grow in Michigan! When I got to my gate, I was surprised to see even more metal brackets protecting our lock. Suits me just fine, thank you very much.
Today at Simply Supper I began telling my friends that I have only two more Wednesdays before I return home to my husband in Michigan. Most of them have been through my migration pattern before, but one fellow said, "Aw! I thought you said you were here to stay this time!"
Today's dinner--pasta and grilled tofu with salad--was most popular with our guests. This was the second month for this new group of volunteers and last month was equally successful. There must be some special ingredient they put in their recipes and I bet it starts with the letter L.
I don't want to forget the following image that came to me in a series of dreams this morning:
I am at a dinner party put on by a homeless couple I know. I discover partway through the meal that the house we are in is not their own. In fact, it is a house they have broken into. I feel uneasy that the police might catch us there, but I don't leave because I don't want to seem ungracious to my hosts. I realize how much it must mean to them to be able to offer this kind of hospitality.
In the next dream--or
scene--I am part of a circle of participants in a creativity/spirituality
workshop. My hands are transparent. I can see and feel the warm
blood-red energy (chi) flowing through them. I place them on my
lap, pick up a bright green oil pastel crayon and draw squiggly
lines on my skirt emanating from the tips of each thumb and finger.
The woman facilitator--whom I admire as a wise crone--comes over
and exclaims, "Ah yes, Patricia, this shows your authentic
gift as healer."
THURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2001
Even though I never ventured farther than my garden today, I feel like I'm in the middle of the action. And partly because of my journal.
A few days ago I received an email request forwarded from a Canadian activist who goes by the name, Resisto. His court date is coming up in Windsor, Ontario on April 2 and he's looking for persons who witnessed his arrest to come forth and testify.
Well, I did witness his arrest that sunny Saturday afternoon in June. It all happened during the OAS (Organization of American States) protest demonstrations/teach-ins where hundreds of us gathered for days to learn about and then stand against the threats of rampant globalization and the proposed FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) that will extend NAFTA to the entire hemisphere.
Actually Resisto and I had met and talked a couple of times, so I was particularly distressed when he was arbitrarily picked up by the police that day. They originally said he was being arrested for juggling in the street, but then charged him with Breech of Bail. The police claimed the folks gathered outside the Capitol Theater after the daylong teach-in constituted a "demonstration" and his bail condition for a prior arrest forbade his attending demonstrations. The reality was that there was no demonstration happening and that is what Resisto wants witnesses to testify in court. A bunch of us were just hanging around, eating the dinner provided by Food Not Bombs, and a few folks were singing.
I emailed Resisto that I wished I could testify for him but I wouldn't be back in town until April 12. The next day I received an email from M.V., an organizer of the Windsor Peace Committee, who has been coordinating the activists' defense. She reminded me that I had written about Resisto's arrest in my online journal during those days and they were looking into the possibility of using my written testimony in court accompanied by a signed letter or affadavit. When I read my entry for Monday, June 5, 2000, I saw what she meant. It just might be helpful in their case. May it be so.
Then I received an email yesterday from P.N., my activist sister during those OAS days. She's going to testify for Resisto and wanted to make a telephone date so we could discuss what we remember. In preparation, I consciously placed myself back in the Capitol Theater in my mind and then wrote without stopping. That's how I wrote "Mosh Pit Mama". It's a most effective technique for recalling details you didn't know you remembered.
So tonight at 6 PM my time--9 PM in Ontario--P.N. and I relived that day in June. Each of us triggered the other's rememberings. That's the wonder of shared experiences. We also discussed the mammoth protest demonstrations being organized around the Quebec City Summit of the Americas the weekend of April 20-22. Though neither of us plans to go to Q.C., we do intend to be part of the day of protest and solidarity happening in Windsor and Detroit on Saturday, April 21. The 30 hours of teach-ins we attended last June all pointed toward the danger of extending NAFTA to the hemisphere through the FTAA that the Summit of the Americas will be voting on. It'll be good for La Lucha and me to rejoin the Windsor peace community on April 21--that's where she got her name!
Things like this really
get me excited about returning home.
FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2001
Just when I start feeling ready to leave San Francisco and go back home, I have a day like today when I'm reminded how much I care about my friends in this neighborhood. Ah well, guess there's no way to avoid the feelings of loss that always begin to assail me along about now.
I had errands to run on this somewhat overcast day, so La Lucha and I set out in the early afternoon. Stock up on diapers and toilet paper at the Mission/23rd Street Walgreen's, pick up a few groceries at Valencia Produce Market (corner of 24th and Valencia), get some herbs and candles at Scarlet Sage Herbs (on Valencia between 22nd and 23rd). All within the neighborhood.
My first stop was Scarlet Sage Herbs. It was the co-owner L.'s birthday so the store was awash in fresh flowers. M.R. and E.S. had asked me to facilitate a cleansing ritual at their Mission Street building tonight, so I'd found online what looked like a good ritual and had printed it out. L.'s partner, D., found the blue, green and purple candles I needed. Then I., a Wicca practioner herself, poured some ocean salt, rose buds, lavender and rosemary into paper sacks for me. I found a lovely deep purple velvet-and-beaded pouch in which to put some of the blessing herbs for M.R...and that was it.
Next to Walgreen's. One of my neighborhood friends, C., was sitting outside the door with her paper cup outstretched. I asked her how it was going, and she shook her head. I promised to give her a little something when I came back out. A sack of my usual Slip-On diapers and a 4-pack of toilet paper and I was done. C. gave me a big smile and a "Bless you, woman!" She seemed happier today than usual. Hope she got enough $$ to get something to eat.
Finally I went to the produce market where my friend the clerk, K., helped me reach a couple Odwalla juices and some cheddar cheese, while I got my own baquette of bread.
I planned to go straight home and start getting ready for tonight's ritual. But when I passed by our corner deli/organic grocery, there were two of my favorite neighborhood fellows, P.P. and I.C., sitting outside shooting the breeze. I couldn't just scoot by, so I parked and joined the conversation.
P., one of the brothers who works the store, came out and he and I.C. immediately got into an argument over who had known me the longest. Those guys really know how to make somebody feel special! Then P.P. and I.C. started talking about recording music with a computer. I came to find out that P.P. is a professional musician who has four CDs. Not only that, he has his own music production company and cuts CDs for other musicians as well. He plays keyboards, sings and composes all his own material...and has been making a living doing it since he came to San Francisco 25 years ago. Sounds like he plays mainly jazz, R&B, and jazz fusion. He's got a gig coming up in April at the Paradise Lounge, a highly respected club.
Now I've known P.P. and his sweet big german shepherd dog to say "hi" to for as long as I've lived in this neighborhood. I've seen him struggle with serious health problems over the years, but until today, we'd never really sat down to talk. The things we don't know about one another!
We were soon joined by G., another brother who works the store. Then J. and D.J. showed up. D.J., whose great love has been taking San Francisco photographs since the '60s, was all excited because he'd just come from Dolores Park where he'd gotten some great shots of the drug dealers. We asked how safe that was and he explained he was standing behind a police car while he took them. D.J. and the police are old buddies. Next to join our circle was L., our wonderful postal carrier. D.J. took a couple of group pictures with both his camera and with mine.
Well, it's almost 1 AM
and I haven't even begun to write about tonight's amazing cleansing
ritual. Better save that for tomorrow. Off to bed!
SATURDAY, MARCH 24, 2001
I have no digital photos of last night's cleansing ritual--mainly because everything was done by candlelight--but hopefully word pictures will take you there.
Imagine a large open room with windows lining two sides (a corner room), freshly-painted white walls, a wooden dance floor covering two/thirds of the floor, some work equipment off to one side and city sounds rising from the street below. When I say windows, I mean beautiful tall old-fashioned round-at-the-top multi-paned windows that open out into the air.
We are on the second floor of a commercial building built in 1910 in the heart of San Francisco's Mission District. It was originally a two-floor department store. During its 91 years, this venerable grande dame, as someone described her, has housed a couple of shoe stores (there's one on the street level right now), an Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and a number of community dance groups. There are three usable floors. We are here to transform the energy left by the previous tenants.
It is a long sad story that I'd just as soon not repeat, but in short, my friends, M.R. and E.S.--who have graciously rented me this tiny urban cottage for the past two winters--undeservedly became the lightning rod for SF's arts groups' fear and anger over the rising costs of rental space in the city. A protest was held last summer in front of this building, a building M.R. and E.S. had bought last March with the intention of finding some way for the current tenants--who were paying 1970s rent--to stay. As part of the protest, folks squatted on this second floor and befouled the space with virulent graffiti drawn and painted on the walls. They basically trashed the place. After several days and nights, M. and E. had to call the police to remove them.
This simple description does not begin to detail the lies in newspapers, magazines and TV that tarred-and-feathered my friends as "millionaire dot-comers" intent on evicting poor deserving arts groups. It does not give any idea of what it was like to have their lives threatened and curses screamed at them. They had to change both their phone number and their email address because of the unending stream of such hateful and frightening verbal attacks.
So now it is spring of the following year and this space still carries remnants of negative energy. Not only that, but M. and E. still suffer from after-effects of the abuse that was heaped on them and their design company. It is time to ritually cleanse the space and hopefully transform its energy.
I offer to facilitate the ritual and we schedule the date to coincide with the visit from Boston of L., one of their dearest, most supportive friends. M. and E. invite a small number of friends to attend, persons who have been there for them in significant and heartfelt ways. I ask that each one come prepared to offer their unique piece of the ritual--whatever seems right to them--so it will truly be a communal undertaking.
During the day yesterday, E.S. begins to prepare for our evening ritual by scrubbing off the remaining pentagram graffiti left there by protesters. He also has to clean up dried vomit (they're next door to a bar). After the entrance looks presentable, he moves upstairs and sweeps and wet mops that huge floor. By the time M., L. and I arrive about 5:30 PM, the room looks wonderful.
But E. tells us that, while cleaning the outside entrance, he encountered a film crew working on a documentary about how terribly the landlords treated the arts group who used to rent space here. E. said, "I am the landlord. Would you like to hear my side of the story?" "No!", the filmmakers replied with hostility, "We heard everything we need to know from the arts group." M. responds to E.'s story with anger and frustration. We're reminded why we are here.
To create sacred space for the ritual, we place a table in the center of the dance floor. It will serve as altar. We cover it with a beautiful cloth, then place a vase of freshly-cut flowers from our garden and three candles--blue for tranquility, green for healing and prosperity, purple for protection. At one end of the table we put a bowl of salt water and one filled with dried rose buds (love), lavender (preservation) and rosemary (protection). We light a stick of incense (frankincense for cleansing) and lay out the sage bundle that L. brought for smudging. M. adds two small candles from a friend who was unable to attend, and I put down the pouch necklace I will later give to M.
L. and M. define the larger circle with white candles that they light, also placing some beside the front windows and at the place where our after-ritual food and drink are sitting. World music is put on the CD player and we are ready. The space is lit by magic.
Friend by friend our circle grows until the eight we are expecting are here.
Their acupuncturist describes how salt absorbs negative energy and places rock salt in all four corners for that purpose. She recommends throwing the rock salt into the ocean after it has done its work.
I introduce the format of our ritual and we begin.
The three altar candles are lit as I blow my digjeridoo calling us to the circle. L. then smudges each of us with sage to cleanse us and dispell whatever negative energy we might be bringing unawares. It is then time to hear the story of what happened here.
First, E. shares the history of this building from its beginnings until today. The original blueprints are placed under the altar. As M. says, "It's a comfort to know that our recent struggles are a mere blip on the screen of all that has happened here." M. then tells what those six months were like. We see photos of the graffiti left behind after the trespassers were removed. They tell of the extensive work they've put into cleaning and renovating the building. They share the success of the first floor shoe store that opened in December, and tell about the letter of intent that was signed just this afternoon by prospective tenants of this floor and the third floor. Raw feelings are expressed, not only by M. and E., but by others in the circle. All this truth-telling prepares us for the next part of the ritual, the actual cleansing with salt water.
By the way, I'm in La Lucha my scooter--thanks to E. carrying it up the two flights of stairs that I struggled to climb--so I can easily manuver around the room. L. holds the bowl of salt water as we go around the perimeter of the room sprinkling salt water and verbalizing whatever negative energies we want to be dispelled. We are quite specific, occasionally funny and totally honest. When finished, E. carries the rest of the water to the toilet and flushes it away. My Wiccan advisor from Scarlet Sage Herbs recommended doing so.
We again stand in a circle around the altar and I invite the community to offer what gifts of ritual they have brought. The acupuncturist celebrates the power of sound to cleanse and transform energy. She leads us in a chant and asks that we make a lot of noise--she brought jars filled with beans to shake--as we move around the room.
An old friend of M.'s--they've known one another since the age of 5--hands each of us a sheet of paper with Hawaiian chants and poems of cleansing. He sings a haunting Hawaiian chant while knocking on my digjeridoo like a drum.
M. and G., who originally met in belly dancing class, next offer the gift of dance. I wish I could give you an adequate word picture of what we see as these beautiful women dressed in flowing costume with bellies bare, undulate in the glow of candle light. It is as though, through dance, they reclaim the space.
It is now time to revisit the perimeter of the room and offer the blessing of rose buds, lavender and rosemary. Each person takes a handful and most verbalize their dreams and hopes for this glorious space while dropping the herbs into dishes on the floor.
Next we share the gifts placed on the altar. A silk pouch of Ganges River sand from G., the belly dancer. My velvet and beaded pouch filled with blessing herbs for M. Blue glass eggs in water from L. that are also capable of absorbing negative energy. We call to mind those who are unable to be with us.
And finally we stand in a circle, now silent, letting the transformed energy pass from hand to hand. We then smudge the person to our left as a way of opening the circle and completing the ritual.
Thank goddess we brought food and drink as it is now 9 PM and none of us has eaten dinner! We gratefully share wine, bread, cheese, olives, ginger snaps and brownies. I even take one sip of wine for the toasts. Most unusual.
This is one of the most
powerful rituals I've attended. And when we are done, it feels
as though strong ocean breezes have cleared out whatever smog
or toxins had previously polluted the building. The space feels
like spring, ready to begin anew. Blessed be.
©2001 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution